Thaipusam has long been a visually captivating festival that’s astounded locals and tourists alike, the former more occupied with the inconvenience of road closures, while wide-eyed tourists line the streets, taking time to admire the dedication of the Kavadi bearers.
Thaipusam is held on the full moon of the 10th Tamil month in honour of the Hindu God, Lord Murugan. In preparation for the day, Hindu devotees adopt a strict vow of celibacy throughout the period of the 10th month, consuming only one vegetarian meal (per day) and abstaining from worldly desires like sex, drugs and alcohol. On the eve of Thaipusam, devotees embark on 24-hour long fast before donning the Kavadis that can weigh as much as 40 kilograms.
While the festival procession of Thaipusam has been covered extensively in numerous articles, one interesting idea behind Thaipusam I’ve come to admire is the support that family, friends and volunteers put into the celebration.
From the start, Kavadi bearers have their friends and family carefully pierce their bodies with skewers to support the semi-circular canopy of the Kavadi. As the devotees venture their way along the walk, the sounds of drums, percussion and song become vital motivators to combat the physical pain and exhaustion faced by the devotees.
Interestingly, this year’s festival was the first time since 2011 where musical instruments and singing were permitted till the start of Clemenceau Avenue, a ruling that did not sit too well with many people when handed out by the Hindu Endowment Board at the start of 2011.
Aside from friends and families, a good number of volunteers spend much of their money to setup food and waterpoints along the 4.5km stretch from Sri Srinivase Perumal Temple (Farrer Park) to Sri Thandayuthapani Temple (Tank Road), distributing anything from lassi and biryani to anyone participating in the event, passers-by included.
Thaipusam is very much a festival to admire, for their dedication towards sacrifice and the strong communal spirit that is synonymous with it. It made me think twice about today’s contemporary Chinese culture and its overemphasis on wealth and prosperity without giving too much in return.